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The phenotype/genotype team, left to right:
Herbert Meltzer, M.D., Stephan Heckers, M.D.,
and Richard Shelton, M.D.

If you come into an ER with chest pain and shortness of breath – a suspected heart attack – a diagnostic engine fires.

From a tube of your blood, the lab runs a quick panel of tests that can detect the telltale molecular markers of a heart attack. Electrodes applied to your chest may reveal an irregular heart rhythm. And imaging scans might show if there is a dangerous blockage of one of your arteries.

These tests provide clinicians evidence of the medical problem at hand and, with the results, the physician has a better grasp on the necessary course of treatment.

But for a patient with symptoms of mental illness – mood changes, fatigue, insomnia, hallucinations, delusions, lack of interest in usual activities – there are no scans, no blood tests that can aid in the psychiatric evaluation. Diagnosis and choice of treatment rely solely on clinical symptoms and medical history.

A new project at Vanderbilt Medical Center hopes to change that by applying the tools of neuroscience research – specifically, neuroimaging and genetics – to identify “tests” that may aid in the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric illness.  continued>>

WRITTEN BY MELISSA MARINO
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEAN DIXON
ILLUSTRATION BY SUE MOBERLY/ WELLCOME IMAGES
 
 

Psychiatry research
goes back to basics

   
 
 
 
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